It’s a slow local news day, so we’ll lead with a real hot button: the Strib’s Tom Meersman says backyard fire complaints are rising. Yes, an environmental group advocates a ban, some health officials agree, and cities are reviewing policies. (The print piece helpfully contains the basic rules.) An MPCA official says no biggie on the health deal. Fire-lovers tell coughing neighbors to back off and complain about freedom’s kneecapping; expect talk radio to follow — the story had 73 comments by early morning on the Strib’s site.
(As for the headline, if you don’t know what I’m referring to (and especially if you do) please click below for a few moments of enjoyment. They don’t make ’em like Arthur Brown anymore; he said he used to get scalp burns doing this.)
Meersman also has a fascinating piece on people’s bodies being used as pollution monitors. Minneapolis kids’ pee is being measured for arsenic, while east-metro blood tracks persistent 3M chemicals. What are now studies may become ongoing monitoring, something the feds have done since the ’70s. Yes, there’s informed consent. A state adviser says a chemical’s presence doesn’t always indicate disease, but it’s one part of the diagnostic puzzle.
The Strib’s series of U.S. Senate duets began this weekend; first, a personal profile, and then a political one. Incumbent Norm Coleman gets the debut honors; Kevin Duchschere’s political examination is broad but not groundbreaking, a one-stop shop of Greatest Hits (and political hits) for just-tuning-in voters. A Strib graphic the Coleman campaign will want to copy shows his six-year Congressional Quarterly “party loyalty” rating in Jim Ramstad/Collin Peterson territory.
The PiPress’ Dennis Lien takes a look at the contentious Second District congressional race between two vets: incumbent John Kline and Iraq vet Steve Sarvi. Sarvi has attacked Kline for insufficiently supporting vets; Kline says it’s a distortion based on omnibus bills that were too expensive. Oft-quoted polisci prof Steven Schier says Sarvi doesn’t have enough dough; Kline has a 6:1 edge in cash on hand. (Thanks to reader M.E. for catching my earlier 2:1 error.)
The Strib’s Kara McGuire looks at federally mandated credit counseling and concludes the feel-good law isn’t much more than an “administrative obstacle” on the way to bankruptcy. One Stillwater counselor has served 5,000 people and can count on one hand the number who’ve avoided bankruptcy this way. The requirement kicks in too late, an expert observes. Defenders acknowledge the low success rate but say at least folks are getting a (belated) financial education.
I don’t usually do the whole TV crime news thing, but Sunday’s Eden Prairie townhome invasion, where two women were robbed, tied up and one sexually assaulted, is frightening enough to mention. Police are saying it seems random. And yes, one neighbor tells Fox9’s Beth McDonough, “I mean, it’s Eden Prairie!”
Downtown Minneapolis is now a tidy little village of 34,170 people, the Downtown Journal’s Michele Bruch reports. That’s up about 15 percent since the start of the decade, a consultant says. Foreclosures? “The city’s current inventory of condominiums contains half the number of foreclosures that single-family homes have in Minneapolis.” OK, but there are a lot more houses, so doesn’t that mean condos face a higher foreclosure rate?
Related: The Strib’s James Walsh says the FBI is investigating condo-related mortgage fraud in Rochester, Sauk Rapids and Spicer. The twist is that the alleged swindlers never converted the units from apartments, using rents to prop up straw buyers and secure $5.5 million in financing diverted for “other purposes.” The FBI says they eventually stopped subsidizing the straw buyers. The couple has not been charged.
Amos Heilicher — “the godfather of the the Minnesota music business,” according to the Strib’s Jon Bream — died at 90 Sunday. He made national hits of songs like the Trashmen’s “Surfin’ Bird” and the Castaways’ “Liar, Liar.” Bream notes that at his peak, Heilicher accounted for 10 percent of the records sold in the United States.
Not every deceased legislator gets mentioned in Glean, but Allan Spear was more than “the nation’s second openly gay legislator” — he was my representative and my friend. Headline-readers might miss all the things he did beyond the novelty label: a tough, canny fighter for issues transcending sexuality, who fought with intelligence, humor and grace, still fighting for causes after giving up power’s reins. The Strib’s Jon Tevlin has a nice overview here, as does the PiPress’ Jeremy Olson.
Nort spews: Every sane Vikings fan (which might be an oxymoron) knows the refs stole Sunday’s game from Detroit. Justifiably Sore Losers here (“NFL should apologize for bad call”) and here. After the 12-10 gift-wrapped victory, Minnesota is tied for the Execrable Division lead at 3-3 with the Bears and Packers.